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Jazz rookie Dante Exum needs to take it to the rack more

Looking at his lay up attempts and free throw attempts . . . and so far it looks bad.

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Dante Exum was drafted by the Utah Jazz at the tender age of 18 out of Australian High School, which I expect to involve a lot of knife identification classes and chem labs where they study snake and frog and fish toxins extensively. And spider bites. I . . . I don't know much about Australia. Anyway, Dante turned 19 during the summer and has played basketball for almost a year straight now when you add up his school year, then the Vegas Summer League, then the FIBA World Cup, and then the NBA season. I don't think you can pin point when the rookie wall hit him, but it's clear that he's not the same, springy guy we saw in the summer anymore. He needs some rest.

But with 30 games left in the season he has something else he needs to do as well -- and that's take it to the rack more.

The last time Dante took a free throw was January 10th, 50 days ago. While the knock on him was that he couldn't shoot reliably from NBA range was a half truth, none of us expected him to be so hesitant to actually take the ball to the rack. It's too early to panic, as he will get older, stronger, wiser, and more aggressive with some more experience. But right now the data is a little upsetting.

1. Dante's attempts have flat-lined::

Dante Exum needs to take it to the Rack 0

The red line is his free throw attempts for the season, and the blue line is makes. And both have flat lined somewhere around the 40 game mark. Part of that is his offense, part of that is the game plan. But it's got to be fixed. Shandon Anderson got to the line 99 times as a rookie. Is Dante less aggressive than Shandon? (Okay, probably yes, but still, man!)

2. Dante's per game averages are diminishing:

Dante Exum needs to take it to the Rack 1

Dante keeps playing every game, and starting, and his defense is exactly what we need, but the reliable game time with predictably poor FTA makes his averages get smaller and smaller each day. At one point he was averaging over 2.0 FTA a game. That is a good start. Since then things have gotten very bad. He's not getting to the line less than 0.5 times a game. In a league, heck, in a Western Conference that has Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Eric Bledsoe, Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday, Tony Parker, Chris Paul -- and others -- it's hard to stay in the game and match their aggressiveness when the other team just knows that even if you beat your man they don't have to step up to you because we all know you're not going to shoot it. (For reals, he has 43 total Dunk or layup attempts in 57 games this year.)

3. Dante is almost historically non-existent amongst his peers:

Okay so Dante isn't taking a lot of shots near the rim, and he's not getting fouled, and he's not getting to the foul line. He's 19! He's a rookie! Fine. According to Baksetball-Reference, their data base has 92 guys in their rookie year who were 19 or younger. And if you sort them by FTA per game, well, Dante ranks #79 our of that 92. He is getting to the line more in his rookie year than Travis Outlaw, Andray Blatche, Yaroslav Korolev, Olumide Oyedeji, Louis Williams, Peter John Ramos, Marquis Teague, Dorell Wright, Ndudi Ebi, Martynas Andriuskevicius, Bruno Caboclo, Jamal Sampson, and Bruno Sundov did as rooks.

Dante's less than, but rounding up to, 0.5 FTA per game is less than Robert Swift, Ha Seung-Jin, Maciej Lampe, Andrew Bynum, Darko Milicic, Jackie Butler, Nikoloz Tskitshvili, Jonathan Bender, and so forth.

If you just look at the Jazz players who were in the same situation -- 19 or under players in their rookie years -- he's last:

  1. Marvin Williams (3.2) (didn't play rookie year with team, #2 pick)
  2. Derrick Favors (2.2) (played half the season with the Nets, #3 pick)
  3. Enes Kanter (1.6) (#3 pick)
  4. Kris Humphries (1.5) (#14 pick)
  5. Andris Biedrins (1.3) (didn't play rookie year with the team, #11 pick)
  6. Kosta Koufos (1.1) (#23 pick)
  7. C.J. Miles (1.0) (#34 pick)
  8. DeShawn Stevenson (1.0) (#23 pick)
  9. Kendrick Perkins (0.9) (didn't play rookie year with the team, #27 pick)
  10. Darryl Dawkins (0.6) (didn't play rookie year with the team, #5 pick)
  11. Dante Exum (0.5) (#5 pick)

Worse still, if you compare him to just lotto point guards it doesn't look any better. Stephon Marbury (#5 overall in this list of 92 players, 5.0 FTA/G), Kyrie Irving (#8, 3.8 FTA/G), Dajuan Wagner (#11, 3.4 FTA/G), and when you are behind Dajuan Wagner in the list I don't need to continue beating a dead horse.

Perhaps it's the Jazz offense that's to blame? The Team is #13 in FT/FGA ratio in the league, and 17th in FTA per game this season at 22.8. Three guys on the team average 4 or more FTA/G (Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors), two more average fewer than four but more than two (Rudy Gobert, and Enes Kanter). Between Kanter's 2.4 FTA/G and Dante's 0.5 FTA/G you have Trey Burke, Elijah Millsap, Trevor Booker, and Rodney Hood.

Dante has played the 6th most minutes on the team this season, taken the 7th most shots (FGA), and is tied for 10th most in Free throw attempts (FTA). His 62.1 FT% is 11th best on the team (beating only Rudy Gobert, Trevor Booker, Elliot Williams, and Steve Novak (who got 0.0 FT% this season)). Maybe that is a contributing factor for his fewer than expected FTA? Or maybe his poor FT% is a product of such a small sample size.

Really. Dante is 18/29 on the season from the stripe this season.


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